Hollins University Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch recently traveled with seven other American academics to the Middle East nation of Oman as part of a trip sponsored by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR).
Lynch, who was selected as an Oman Alwaleed Fellow by NCUSAR in July, journeyed to the Omani cities of Muscat, Nizwa, and Salalah, August 13 – 23.
Lynch said the trip highlighted the importance of Oman to U.S. foreign policy, especially in the wake of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran. “The first contacts between the Obama Administration and the government of Iran occurred because the Omani government was able to talk to both sides and get them together,” Lynch said. “This is a part of the story that the U.S. media is not telling.”
Oman’s foreign policy is based on the principle of “friend to all, enemy to none.” Its leadership has been particularly friendly to the U.S. government. Lynch was told by one U.S. official, “There isn’t much that we ask of the Omanis that they don’t provide.” Lynch added that Oman’s actions were instrumental in all but destroying the threat of piracy from Somalia.
Lynch emphasized that Oman’s friendship is crucial to American consumers: 60 percent of the world’s oil flows through its territorial waters. “Any serious upheaval in Oman could result in the return of $4 or $5 gas in the U.S.,” he explained.
The trip also made it clear to Lynch that this U.S. ally will potentially be in great trouble in the near future. The long-time Sultan is elderly and in ill health. He has no children or brothers and has not named a successor.
At the same time, Oman finds itself in a difficult position in between mortal enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran. A civil war in Yemen threatens Oman’s southern province. While spared the violence and upheaval of the Arab Spring so far, Lynch said Oman’s future is far from clear.
Founded in 1983 and based in Washington, D.C., NCUSAR is an American non-profit, non-governmental, educational organization dedicated to improving American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world. Hollins will continue its relationship with the organization this fall when the university hosts the Appalachian Region Model Arab League, November 6 – 8.
Photo caption: Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch meets with H.E. Mohamed Al Hassan, Chief of Minister’s Office, Oman Ministry of Foreign Affairs.